Request for Help with Baskettails (Epitheca)

This is the season for Baskettails in east Texas. There are three very perplexing species flying together, and we need the help of the Ode Community to help us solve the problem of identifying them and understanding their behavior. The three species are cynosura (Common B.), costalis (Bar-winged B.), and petechialis (Spot-wing B,) The first part of the problem is that only the first species usually has any wing spots at all - about 1/4 of the specimens in East Texas that I have seen. The second is always clear winged in the male (a very few females in FL have a and quot;bar and quot;). The third is spot winged around Austin but loses the spots in east TX and LA. I have attached scans of the terminal appendages of the males, but there is variation and many specimens may not be clearly assigned to any of these species.

The base of the abdomen is not at all constricted in cynosura, visibly constricted in petechialis, and still more constricted in costalis. This character is not apparent when they are flying in front of you, but is quite apparent in the hand.

If it is of any consolation, I have been studying these guys since 1960 in East Texas and I am still doing poorly identifying them in the field!

As far as we can determine, cynosura is the most common, petechialis the second, and costalis the third, but all are fairly common. Cynosura patrols in full sun around pond and lake margins, and on dirt roads. Costalis is more of a shade lover, and patrols in longer beats, but is found in the same places. Petechialis is a stronger flier and spends more time away from water, hawking over parking lots, in cleared fields, etc.

There is a fourth species, semiaquea (Mantled B.) whose males all have heavy wing markings, and has a notably fatter abdomen that the three above.

Please collect specimens is you are equipped to do so. If you acetone them, we might be able to use them for DNA studies. And if you can record the observations as to where they were flying, their behavior, their eye color, etc., we would like to have these.

Nick Donnelly (tdonelly@binghamton.edu) and John Abbott (jcabbott@mail.utexas.edu)

Added 12-April-2006:

We are also interested in seeing specimens of Epitheca semiaquea (Mantled Baskettail). Please collect these specimens and send them to John Abbott (email for instructions on where to send, jcabbott@mail.utexas.edu).